Last week, Sean Greene swung through Portland for a brief visit. Married now, with two cute kids. I probably hadn’t seen him since 2001. I bet he’ll be wearing a plaid button up shirt, Sean said to himself. I was.
I have a pleasant teenaged memory of driving with Sean in his pickup truck to a punk show in a suburban Connecticut basement. The bottom of the truck’s floor had rusted out and you could feel the winter air whipping into the cabin. Sean was blasting Metallica’s new album (must’ve been ’91, so the “black” album?). I remember how I was kind of shocked–how could a hardcore kid like a “metal” album? Aren’t those guys our enemies? I kept that fact to myself. I remember visiting Sean in Providence, probably in 1994. I’d taken the train down from Boston to see Lungfish play at RISD. He talked about drinking coffee and throwing paint at pieces of canvas, and it sounded so great that I up and moved to NYC to be with the cool art kids. And in New York, I remember Sean at 168 Rivington, the apartment with the slanted floor and shoddy heating (and the handwritten sign on its graffitied door: NO DOG NO PIANO) that I’d later move into with Brian and Garrett. I remember drinking tea and listening to the Rodan LP on the living room stereo.
After Sean’s visit, Suz and I went out to Peak’s Island to meet our pals at their family cottage. We boarded the 3:15 ferry, a big white and yellow boat called the Machigonne II. It was a summer Saturday and Casco Bay was full of asshole boozer boats, little Boston Whalers, and sailboats.
At the Peak’s Island ferry landing, a bunch of kids were gathered around the edge of the dock, jumping off the tops of the pylons while their girlfriends watched. All the kids were blond and tan. When the Machigonne II was about 250 yards out, another teenager jumped into the bay in front of the ship. This stunt threw the Machigonne’s crew into a frenzy. The captain, a guy probably ten years my junior, grumbled into the loudspeaker, “Hey, you wanna get out of the water?” Kids threading the needle between an approaching ferry and the open water below the dock must be a common source of frustration. He blew the horn and steered the Machigonne to starboard; better to have to realign one’s approach then crush a little snot-nosed kid to death with your boat.
But then this is where things unraveled for the Machigonne’s crew. From my view on the top starboard deck, it was evident that at the speed we were going, there was no way the captain would be able to reach the ferry landing. We were practically parallel to the shore. I kept looking to the right of the ferry landing. Maybe there was a second ferry dock I couldn’t see that he was heading to?
As this point, had I been captain (Monday morning ferry captaining?), I’d have thrown the brakes on, backed up and realigned the boat. But maybe there’s something I didn’t know about, some mechanics of ferry boating, or perhaps there were dangerous shallows ahead. As it was, the Machigonne’s captain turned the boat to port and aimed his vessel as best he could back towards the dock. The snot-nosed kid had since ascended the dock’s ladder and I can only assume high-tailed it the hell out of there. Or perhaps we can hope he was getting his ears boxed by some authority figure. Probably not, though. Sadly, we don’t live in the era when concerned adults can box the ears of snot-nosed kids.
It was a slow motion crash. The port side of the ferry inched closer to the pylons on the left side of the ferry dock. Seconds before we collided with the pylon, the captain blurted into the loudspeaker “brace for impact!” I had already been bracing. I had time to remember the awful stories about the Staten Island Ferry crash a few years back, my nervous-little-kid mind was preparing for a scene of utmost carnage. As it was, the port side of the Machigonne thudded into the concrete pylon and the boat came to shuddering stop, propelled backwards from the impact. We were still afloat, drifting while all the passengers chattered and looked over the sides of the ferry.
“We’ve lost engines,” somebody announced to the captain over the intercom. “I’m going to restart the engines.”
“Is everybody okay?” The captain asked.
“Some old lady fell down.” One of his crew yelled up to him. Later, as we disembarked I saw the old lady. She was speaking to a ferry officially who wrote her contact information down on the back of a torn envelope. The boat itself seemed fine. A little dinged up on the port side.
Everybody was fine. Even the snot-nosed kid.